For a long time I struggled with confidence in myself and being happy with who I was, and through blogging I discovered that a lot of people felt the same way. Who doesn't have days where they question their self worth? Today I am a lot better (though not completely, because it is a long process), but I've been thinking a lot about this and hope to share some tips to gain confidence in yourself. Granted, you cannot become happy with who you are overnight, and even after three years of doing some of these things I'm still not always 100% confident. I still have fears and insecurities. You won't see a change right away, but I encourage you to keep trying and keep striving to be the best person you can be. Even if it may take a long time, you will see improvements.
As girls, this is probably the biggest thing we struggle with, which is a shame because at the end of the day, our physical appearance means very little compared to our character. The outer layer of who we show to the world will fade, but what is on the inside will shine through until our death. But I also don't like the notion that looks don't matter, because in our society they do. You probably shouldn't go to certain places in certain types of clothing, and it is important to be healthy and care for your body. But I don't want anyone to think that this is most important, or that I'm endorsing changing something that is impossible to change, such as your body type or bone structure or whatever. Everyone is beautiful, and there is great beauty in diversity.
That being said, as a woman, a lot of confidence comes from appearance, and if you don't like the way something about yourself looks, then by all means, change it! We live in an imperfect world and we are imperfect people and if you want to improve something about yourself to gain confidence, who would stop you? In my life personally, I don't like my teeth. They're pretty yellow, and I'm always embarrassed to smile because I know they don't look the best they can be. So finally a couple days ago I bought Crest Whitening Strips in the hopes of getting pretty white teeth. Another thing I don't really like is my nose. It's slightly crooked, so 99% of the time I twist my head slightly to the right because that side of my nose looks cute and small, whereas the other side looks big. I do this for nearly all of my photos. One way I'm trying to change how I feel about my nose is by taking lots and lots of flattering photos of myself looking towards the left (my left), like in this photo. If I had taken that photo two years ago, you would have never seen it. I have often found that in repeating something over and over again, I start to believe it or get used to it or don't think it's so weird looking after all.
I've always hated my forehead, so in seventh grade I finally got bangs, and I haven't looked back. That haircut still brings so much confidence to me. In junior high, I would literally spend hours straightening my hair before school to get my locks to be all nice and in control, and while it was insane to get up three hours before school to do that, I felt so much more confident (and a little tired) going throughout my day. Then I chopped all my hair off, went with a boy cut, and slicked my bangs to the side (that was short lived). No longer could I hide behind the security blanket that was my hair, and I think it was a really good thing. Instead of worrying every day about my hair or how it was so short, I thought, "Well I can't change anything about this, so I'm going to enjoy it." And I did! I loved having short hair while I had it, and it helped me to let go of a temporary thing like hair.
Around the time I cut my hair, I stopped wearing makeup completely. I used proactive for my zits, and I refused to cover up my face, no matter how embarrassed or naked I felt without the cakiness on my skin. The first few weeks of school I was so self conscious about my face. "Were people looking at my zits? Will they still like me? Will they think I'm ugly?" But eventually I got so tired of thinking these things, that I just stopped and said, "Eff them." I came to the realization that the people I was trying to impress didn't care about me at all, so I wasn't going to care about what they thought. The reality is that they were so concerned with themselves, they didn't have time to worry about me. The people who truly care about you won't care if there's a zit on your face or not.
Today I wear makeup because I think it's fun, but I could just as easily go out without wearing any and feel perfectly fine.
So to gain confidence in your physical appearance:
1. If you don't like it, change it! Dye your hair if you hate the color, buy cream if you don't like your skin, wear nail polish if you want to stop biting your nails, you're free to change something you don't like.
2. Immerse yourself in your insecurity. Sometimes you just have to be absolutely insane and jump right in. Cut all your hair off, quit wearing makeup entirely. Have fun with it though!
3. Remember that the people you're trying to impress don't care about you, and the people you care about don't need impressing.
One more thing I did, my boyfriend Matt actually made me promise to do every single day. When we first started dating, I didn't really think I was pretty at all, so he made me pinky promise (and you never break a pinky promise!) to look in the mirror every morning and say, "I am the most beautiful girl in the entire world." I hated saying that. But I grumbled and said it to an ugly face every morning before school. But then a couple months passed and I began to think, "You know, this face isn't really that bad." And then a few more months passed and I thought, "I look pretty good today!" Now I don't have to say it to myself anymore, because I no longer think I'm ugly. Sure, I have bad days, but for the most part, I could care less about how I look because I know that "I'm the most beautiful girl in the world." Pinky promise that you'll say that to yourself in the mirror every day.
I can only speak for introverted people like myself, but when I get into a social situation, I am hugely insecure. This isn't just introversion, but also because I'm shy around people I don't know. If it's even just a couple people I don't know that well, I for the life of me cannot bring myself to speak up. Last thanksgiving I had to stay over at someone's house who I had only briefly met once before, and I had to spend the entire week with a ton of people I had never met before. Matt was the only person I really felt comfortable talking with (and the random dogs that were hanging out), so I stuck by him the whole time in an effort to feel less awkward than if I was chilling out in a corner or in the bathroom by myself. I'm sure all the people were nice and kind and lovely people, in fact I know that, and it's sad that I wasn't brave or confident enough to talk to them first. But it was awful and I couldn't wait to go back to the comfort and familiarity of school.
First things first, don't ever feel bad for who you are. Don't use introversion as an apology! I have had one person tell me, "I'm sorry I'm so quiet. I'm an introvert." I was so sad when he told me that because you should never have to apologize for the way your brain functions. But at the same time, don't use it as an excuse either. "No way will I talk to those people, I'm an introvert." I hate it when people use my personality type as an excuse to not do something or meet someone.
For me, I am afraid that people will find me uninteresting or they won't like me ... or the dreaded awkward silence. Oh how I cringe at the awkward silence. A good thing to do would be to ask a lot of questions. People love talking about themselves, and if you can get someone going on what they're passionate about, you can just sit back and listen, which will hopefully open up more questions for you to ask, and the conversation will continue on. Always always always tell yourself that you are interesting and that people have a right to get to know you because you have something wonderful to offer them. You are interesting and cool, and no one, not even yourself, should make you feel boring or unlikable.
In the movie We Bought a Zoo the dad said, "All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, and I promise you, something great will come of it." Sometimes in social situations, you just have to throw caution to the wind, hold your breath, and do something absolutely terrifying. For my 2012 365 project, one day my friend and I were walking around and we saw a group of fire fighters and trucks finishing up a fire scene. I walked around for ten minutes being absolutely petrified, because I really wanted to ask a fire fighter to model for me. My heart was beating out of my chest, and I hadn't even tried to approach them yet! I almost walked away without asking, but then I thought to myself, "What would Sarah do?" Sarah is one of my photographer friends who had terrible social anxiety in high school, but now is teaching workshops all over the US and is doing incredible things. I knew that she would be so disappointed if she knew that I passed up this opportunity, so I took a deep breath, started counting down from twenty, and walked up and asked if someone wanted to model for me. It was so scary and I was freaking out silently the entire time and even all day after I had done it, but it was the most amazing feeling and I got one of my favorite photos ever from it. The saying is true, something great will come from those twenty seconds of insane courage.
I've written a lot about personalities and introversion, so if you want to read a bit more, you can check out some blog posts here, here, and here!
So in social situations:
1. Don't let your personality be an excuse to never branch out. Your comfort zone is there for a reason, but expand it!
2. Don't feel sorry for who you are. If you're an introvert and need to go home a little early for the party or stick with one or two people you're comfortable with, don't feel bad! Only feel bad if you know you missed an opportunity, and use that disappointment to fuel your next opportunity.
3. Ask a lot of questions. And listen to the answers.
4. Use up those twenty seconds of courage! And add a few more seconds if you have to. I guarantee something great will come from it.
Confidence and happiness go pretty hand in hand, I think, and there are a lot of little things I've found that improve my happiness. I don't know if I'm manic depressive, or just a moody young adult, but some days I feel incredibly low and have to work very, very hard to feel happiness. I've talked with a couple of you about this, and I've loved having those conversations! It's very nice to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with these things, and we really have to stick together. A few things I've learned to be happy are as follows:
1. Do things that make you happy. This may seem obvious, but sometimes when I'm feeling low, it takes everything in me to get up and draw or read or write something. But when I finally force myself to do those things, I start to feel better.
2. Go outside. Lay out in the grass. Find shapes in the clouds. Dance in the rain. Enjoy nature and be completely overwhelmed by it.
3. Here are some more steps to happiness, thanks to tumblr. A lot of these are great, small things you can do to simplify your life.
I also recently found this great quote:
"I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that - I don’t mind people being happy - but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is." -- Hugh Mackay
I love that quote so much. When I look back on all the major challenges and low points in my life, even though those times were painful, I'm glad they happened because they really did help me become more whole. And with anything in life, confidence, happiness, anything, it's all a journey and you're never finished improving. You only have one life to live, and there's no use living it in insecurity and unhappiness. I know it's hard and will take a lot of time, but these are all ways that I've made change in myself and I hope it will help you as well!
If you ever need anyone to talk with, I'm always open. You can leave me a comment or email me here.
I hope you have a wonderful day!